Master of Arts in Communication

Please consult the following for information about the M.A. degree in Communication:

Overview of the Master’s Degree

The graduate program in Communication has two main objectives: to guide students in an intensive exploration of the structure and function of communication and to educate students in the methods and theory of communication inquiry.

The curriculum covers two areas of study although students do not have to declare a specialization:

  1. Interpersonal communication
  2. Journalism/Media studies

Although 400-level courses are open to both B.A. and M.A. candidates, graduate students enrolled in 400-level courses should expect more stringent grading standards and/or more assignments (and perhaps differently structured assignments) than undergraduates enrolled in the same courses.


Entrance Requirements

For admission to the Communication M.A. program, a student must:

  • Be admitted to UIS as a degree-seeking student at the graduate
  • Have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better
  • Pass the department’s graduate admission writing
  • Have two letters of recommendation, including one from an academic source, sent to the department
  • Submit a one- to two-page personal statement of purpose to the department

The first step is to contact the UIS Admissions Office and complete the university’s application for master’s degree study. The Admissions Office will also require the applicant to submit official transcripts from all of the colleges and universities attended. The Communication Department cannot consider an application until these first steps are completed through the UIS Admissions Office.

The Communication Department reserves the right to require additional coursework where deficiencies are indicated. A student must have a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.00 or greater (on a 4.00 scale) for regular admission to the department. A cumulative GPA is calculated on all of your college coursework—not just the courses you’ve taken at the last college attended.

Students with cumulative GPAs slightly below 3.0 file a Student Petition Form with the department for possible conditional admission and should contact the department for details. In rare circumstances, such students are admitted. Students who are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) examination must achieve a score of 580 or above to be admitted to the program.

The department strongly recommends graduate students begin their studies in the fall semester. Applications for the fall semester must be received by March 1 of the previous spring for full consideration. Graduate students may be admitted on a limited basis for the spring semester; deadline for spring applications is October 1 of the previous fall.

The Graduate Admission Writing Examination: All incoming graduate students in the Communication Department are required to complete the program’s writing examination.  Please contact the Communication Department Secretary to schedule a time to take the exam. The writing exam includes multiple-choice grammar/vocabulary questions and an essay.


Application Requirements

The graduate program in communication has two main objectives:

  • to guide students in an intensive exploration of the structure and function of human communication, and
  • to educate students in the methods and theory of communication inquiry.

The program offers three areas of study: meaning systems, interpersonal/organizational systems, and mass media systems.

In addition to completing the UIS application for graduate study, applicants must complete the Communication Program Writing Examination.

Contact the department secretary, at (217) 206-6790 to schedule a time to take the exam.

To be eligible for full admission to the master of arts program in communication applicants must have earned a baccalaureate degree with a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.00 on a 4.00 scale and pass the Communication Program Writing Examination. Applicants with undergraduate GPAs between 2.80 and 3.00 will be considered for conditional admission.



Each new graduate student should consult with a faculty adviser before initial registration. Advisers help students develop a course of study based on department requirements and on the students’ personal interests.


Grading Policy

No grade below B- in a Communication course may be applied toward the degree, and students who do not maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA will be placed on academic probation. Communication courses to be counted toward the degree requirements may not be taken on a credit/no credit basis except for COM 501.


Course Repetition

COM 579 and 580 may be taken for credit more than once provided the course topic is different each time. No more than six semester hours of credit for COM 499 and 599 (tutorials) will be accepted for the degree. All other Communication courses may be repeated for grade improvement only once.


Department Requirements

All communication M.A. candidates are required to complete at least 36 hours of graduate study in Communication. These hours must include COM 501 Closure Experience, COM 504 Introduction to Graduate Study in Communication, COM 506 Research Methods in Communication and at least three 500-level graduate seminars. Graduate seminars are numbered 514 through 580. In addition, Master’s students may take a 4-hour elective outside of Communication with permission of the department. The total number of hours for a masters degree in Communication is 40.

No more than eight semester hours of graduate courses may be taken before enrolling in COM 504, which is offered only in the fall semester. A student may not register for COM 501 Thesis or COM 502 Project until he/she has registered for COM 506. COM 506 is offered only in the spring semester.

Students must complete department required courses (COM 501, COM 504, COM 506) at UIS to graduate.

Courses with a 300 course prefix number that advisors require of graduate students as prerequisites must be passed with a minimum grade of B (grades of B- or lower will not be accepted). Hours so earned may not be counted toward the graduate degree.


Required Courses

COM 504 Intro to Graduate Study 4 hrs
COM 506 Research Methods 4 hrs
COM 501 Closure Experience
(thesis, project, exam)
4 hrs
500-level graduate seminars
(Courses numbered 511 – 597)
12 hrs
Graduate-Level COM courses
(400- or 500-level)
12 hrs
Elective (If outside Communication, student must obtain permission of the department.) 4 hrs
Total: 40 hrs

Additional courses may be required by the adviser, with department approval, in order to meet deficiencies. COM 599 (tutorial) credit may not be used to satisfy the 500-level seminar requirement.


Closure Requirement

In accordance with university requirements, all graduate students must complete a master’s thesis, project, or comprehensive exams (COM 501 Closure Experience). The closure experience should be a culmination of graduate study and should reflect your understanding of the coursework. The proposed thesis or project must be approved by a faculty committee before it is started. Students must have completed a minimum of 32 (preferably 36) credit hours to be eligible for comprehensive exams. Students write comprehensive exams over five areas during a two-day period.

Students should consult their advisers about which of the three best suits students’ courses of study.

Students are strongly advised to begin planning for their closure requirement early in their studies in the department.


A thesis is an extensive paper on an approved communication topic. This essay may be original research, analysis or criticism. Students should consult their advisers to select an appropriate topic and plan a schedule for the research, writing, editing and defense of the thesis.

Closure Project:

A project is an applied study in which the student designs and produces a professional project in response to a communication problem. The project may be a workshop manual, documentary video, computerized or internet training program, public relations campaign or a variety of other media. Each project is unique and each proposal different. The communication problem or rationale for the project will be different for a documentary video than for a public relations campaign, for example.

Comprehensive Exam:

The comprehensive exam provides a timely means of completing the closure requirement. When a student is in the last semester of coursework (having completed eight, preferably nine courses), he/she should meet with his/her adviser to determine the five areas/courses over which to take the comprehensive exam. In consultation with the adviser, the student decides the five areas that are most relevant for his/her educational goals. The student will then meet with the professors for these five areas to obtain a list of themes or key areas to review for each exam.

Comprehensive exams are given three times a year, once each semester (usually around the 8th or 9th week of the semester) and once during the middle of the summer term over a two-day period. In other words, students write answers for two areas on one day and three areas the other day. Typically, students will have 60 to 90 minutes to answer a question (the time limit will be specified by the professor).

If a student fails any area of the comprehensive exam, he/she have the opportunity to take it again. If the student fails one area only, he/she can study and re-take the area as soon as possible. If the student fails two or more areas, he/she must wait until the next time the comprehensive exam is offered. Typically, students will receive their exam results in two weeks (except during the summer when not all faculty members are on staff). The exams are graded pass/fail: credit or no credit.


Click here to download the Graduate Student Handbook
Written by Jason Stewart, revised July 2009